Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 3rd, 2009

You can’t teach those who think they already know

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Paul Krugman:

Edmund Phelps begins a column “explaining” disputes in economics by saying

Keynesian economics, which had been nearly forgotten inside the macro field, has found new voices from outside. They take the position that fiscal “stimulus” of all kinds is effective against slumps of all causes.

OK, no point in reading any further.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, holds that alleged position. The position held by Keynesians — by the way, if Keynesian economics has been “nearly forgotten inside the macro field”, someone should tell Greg Mankiw that he’s an unperson — is that fiscal stimulus is necessary only under certain special conditions. Namely, when you’re up against the zero lower bound, and conventional monetary policy is useless, fiscal stimulus may be your best option.

And we are at the zero lower bound right now, for the first time in 70 years. That’s why fiscal stimulus is on the agenda — not because Keynesians believe that deficit spending is always and everywhere the best policy.

But this complete misrepresentation by Phelps — it doesn’t even rise to the level of caricature, since it bears no resemblance to what people like me are saying — is characteristic. For the most part, the opponents of stimulus just don’t listen; they have this image of the idiot Keynesian so fixed in their minds that they can’t be bothered to pay any attention to the actual arguments.

You might have thought that the worst economic crisis since the 30s, a crisis that should not have happened according to non-Keynesian models, would prompt at least a little intellectual curiosity. But no.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

Interesting healthcare graphs

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Via Boing Boing, this blog has some cool graphs. As pointed out, "these amounts are what providers are paid by governments or other insurers, not what the patient pays, which in many European countries is essentially nothing. See the footnotes for the tables in the original document."

Physician fees

Hospital

OB Fees

Lipitor

As he notes:

Since we have the best health care in the world, this must mean that you get what you pay for. Our Lipitor must be four to ten times as good as the Lipitor that Canadians take.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 3:28 pm

The FBI and wiretaps

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Bruce Schneier:

To aid their Wall Street investigations, the FBI used DCSNet, their massive surveillance system.

Prosecutors are using the FBI’s massive surveillance system, DCSNet, which stands for Digital Collection System Network. According to Wired magazine, this system connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It can be used to instantly wiretap almost any communications device in the U.S. — wireless or tethered. In other words, you and I have no privacy. The government can listen in on any call made in the continental U.S. (This is all well and good if you trust every government employee. But what if an attorney general running for higher office will do anything to finger a high-profile target? Or what if a prosecutor has a personal grudge he’d like to fulfill? It seems to me it would be easy for this power to fall into the wrong hands.)

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 2:23 pm

Obama’s latest use of "secrecy" to shield presidential lawbreaking

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Glenn Greenwald:

The Obama administration has, yet again, asserted the broadest and most radical version of the "state secrets" privilege — which previously caused so much controversy and turmoil among loyal Democrats (when used by Bush/Cheney) — to attempt to block courts from ruling on the legality of the government’s domestic surveillance activities.  Obama did so again this past Friday — just six weeks after the DOJ announced voluntary new internal guidelines which, it insisted, would prevent abuses of the state secrets privilege.  Instead — as predicted — the DOJ continues to embrace the very same "state secrets" theories of the Bush administration – which Democrats generally and Barack Obama specifically once vehemently condemned — and is doing so in order literally to shield the President from judicial review or accountability when he is accused of breaking the law.

The case of Shubert v. Bush is one of several litigations challenging the legality of the NSA program, of which the Electronic Frontier Foundation is lead coordinating counsel. The Shubert plaintiffs are numerous American citizens suing individual Bush officials, alleging that the Bush administration instituted a massive "dragnet" surveillance program whereby "the NSA intercepted (and continues to intercept) millions of phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans, with no connection to Al Qaeda, terrorism, or any foreign government" and that "the program monitors millions of calls and emails . . . entirely in the United States . . . without a warrant" (page 4).  The lawsuit’s central allegation is that the officials responsible for this program violated the Fourth Amendment and FISA and can be held accountable under the law for those illegal actions.

Rather than respond to the substance of the allegations, the Obama DOJ is instead insisting that courts are barred from considering the claims at all.  Why?  Because — it asserted in a Motion to Dismiss it filed on Friday — to allow the lawsuit to proceed under any circumstances — no matter the safeguards imposed or specific documents excluded — "would require the disclosure of highly classified NSA sources and methods about the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and other NSA activities" (page 8).  According to the Obama administration, what were once leading examples of Bush’s lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution — namely, his illegal, warrantless domestic spying programs — are now vital "state secrets" in America’s War on Terror, such that courts are prohibited even from considering whether the Government was engaging in crimes when spying on Americans. 

That was the principal authoritarian instrument used by Bush/Cheney to shield itself from judicial accountability, and it is now the instrument used by the Obama DOJ to do the same… 

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 2:16 pm

Can reason win the drug war?

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The question is asked by Paul Waldman, who writes:

In these times of economic strife and fervent debate over health care, our great national culture war has been pushed to the side. But once in a while, it pops up its mischievous little head to remind us that the eternal battle between the hippies and the squares continues on, even if we can ignore it from time to time.

One of those moments happened on Oct. 19, when the Justice Department released a memo instructing U.S. attorneys that while prosecuting drug dealers is still an objective, they "should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Though the next Republican administration will probably reverse the policy, the directive seems to provide more evidence that the left is winning the culture war.

The administration’s move hardly came as a surprise. During the 2008 campaign, Obama made clear his position: If doctors prescribe marijuana, that’s fine with him, and if state laws allow it, then the Justice Department shouldn’t waste resources on this type of drug arrest. But the memo signaled a dramatic shift from the policy of the Bush administration, which staged dozens of raids on the marijuana dispensaries that have become common in some of the 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana.

This isn’t to say that the Obama administration is going to be arguing for legalization – go to the Web site of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and you’ll see that the top headline reads, "ONDCP Director Declares Legalizing Marijuana a Non-Starter." Nevertheless, there does appear to be substantial momentum in the direction of more state approval of marijuana. Not only does medical marijuana enjoy overwhelming support among the American public (for instance, a 2003 Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Republicans said they favored it), even outright legalization is gaining support. A Gallup poll released last week found support for legalization reaching 44 percent, higher than at any time since the organization began asking the question in 1970. It found majority support for legalization among people under the age of 50, Democrats, liberals, and people living in the West. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in April obtained almost identical results.

We’re also seeing a shift in elite debate. When Michael Phelps was caught on camera earlier this year taking a bong hit (his taste for pot didn’t seem to stop him from becoming perhaps the greatest athlete on Earth), conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who is profiled in the latest issue of the Prospect, came out for legalization. "It’s time to recognize that all drugs are not equal," she wrote, "and change the laws accordingly." In June, Nicholas Kristof all but endorsed decriminalization on the op-ed page of The New York Times. Last week, a committee of the California Legislature held a hearing to debate the possibility of legalizing the drug, and an initiative to that effect could be on Californians’ ballots next November.

But for the moment, most legal battles revolve around medical marijuana. Those who favor a continuation of the drug war often argue that medical marijuana is nothing but a Trojan horse to allow legalization of the drug for recreational use. They’re half right. Contrary to what the drug warriors would like to believe, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people could — or already do — legitimately benefit from the use of marijuana for a variety of medical conditions. But it’s also true that legalization of medical marijuana ends up allowing lots of people who don’t have much of a medical need but enjoy getting high to access the drug. And that’s a good thing.

There are many reasons why, but let’s just examine a couple…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 2:08 pm

Farmers fight climate change bill even as climate change causes trouble for them

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McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Farm state senators and others soon will get a taste of what their colleagues from Missouri already have piled high on their desks: thousands of letters from farmers urging them to vote against the climate and energy bill.

The Missouri Farm Bureau started the letter campaign early, weeks before the bill was fully written and made public. It was followed in October with a pitch from the American Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest agriculture lobby, to get farmers to take farm caps, sign their bills and send them to senators with notes that say, "Don’t cap our future."

Agriculture is likely to have a central place in the debate on the bill later this year about the short-term costs of acting to curb climate change — and the costs of failing to address the long-term risks.

Farm lobby groups and senators who agree with them argue that imposing limits on the nation’s emissions of heat-trapping gases from coal, oil and natural gas would raise the cost of farming necessities such as fuel, electricity and natural gas-based fertilizer. A government report, however, warns of a dire outlook for farms if rising emissions drive more rapid climate shifts in the decades ahead.

The Senate bill includes provisions that would hold down energy costs for consumers, and some senators are working to add sections that would help farmers…

Continue reading. What is the name for people who work hard against their own interests?

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 12:19 pm

Walking a mile in an immigrant’s moccasins

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Very interesting story by Hector Tobar in the LA Times:

The wedding was all set. The bride would travel from Mexico City to Rexburg, Idaho, where she would walk down the aisle of the Mormon temple in her white dress. She would marry that crazy guy from the radio who had been courting her.

Then it all fell apart, here in Los Angeles, in the bowels of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

The bride had to go through immigration in L.A. before catching her connecting flight to Idaho. She thought her papers were in order. So when the immigration agent asked her the purpose of her visit to the United States, she responded truthfully, “I’m going to get married.”

Before she knew it, she had been deported and was on the next plane back to Mexico.

Deyanira Escalona’s Idaho wedding had to be canceled. This pushed her fiancé, the already excitable Benjamin Reed, nearly over the edge.

“They treated her very poorly,” Reed said of the agents at LAX. Among other things, he said, they took wedding invitations they found in her purse and handled them as if they were evidence of a criminal conspiracy. “They treated her like a dog.”

I first met Ben Reed, a veteran Idaho radio DJ, while reporting a story for The Times nine years ago. Ben is not someone you easily forget. He’s a former Mormon missionary and fluent Spanish speaker who used to be a conservative talk show host. Among Spanish radio listeners in southern Idaho he’s known by his on-air persona as “El Chupacabras,” or the goat vampire.

Reed once was a devout Reagan Republican. Then his corner of southern Idaho filled up with Spanish-speaking people. He fell in love with his new neighbors. They were emotional people who always seemed ready to hug him. He became addicted to their music and their food. And he fell hard for Deyanira too.

All of this has led him to put on “the moccasins of the immigrant,” Ben told me. Now nothing looks quite as simple as it used to. Love and empathy will do that, which is why some people think love and empathy are as dangerous to America as the swine flu.

“I’ve been radicalized by this whole experience,” Ben told me.

Before his wedding, he had consulted with attorneys and immigration officials in Idaho…

Continue reading. The US is turning itself into an authoritarian state and the populace stands by passive.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 12:14 pm

How Superman took on and defeated the (real) Ku Klux Klan

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The Younger Daughter points out this article by Mark Juddery:

In the 1940s, The Adventures of Superman was a radio sensation. Kids across the country huddled around their sets as the Man of Steel leapt off the page and over the airwaves. Although Superman had been fighting crime in print since 1938, the weekly audio episodes fleshed out his storyline even further. It was on the radio that Superman first faced kryptonite, met Daily Planet reporter Jimmy Olsen, and became associated with “truth, justice, and the American way.” So, it’s no wonder that when a young writer and activist named Stetson Kennedy decided to expose the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, he looked to a certain superhero for inspiration.

In the post-World War II era, the Klan experienced a huge resurgence. Its membership was skyrocketing, and its political influence was increasing, so Kennedy went undercover to infiltrate the group. By regularly attending meetings, he became privy to the organization’s secrets. But when he took the information to local authorities, they had little interest in using it. The Klan had become so powerful and intimidating that police were hesitant to build a case against them.

Struggling to make use of his findings, Kennedy approached the writers of the Superman radio serial. It was perfect timing. With the war over and the Nazis no longer a threat, the producers were looking for a new villain for Superman to fight. The KKK was a great fit for the role…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Daily life

Important article by Scott Horton on the Arar dismissal

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Read this entire article. It’s important, and it shows a new kind of US, one we haven’t seen before. It begins:

“When the history of this distinguished court is written, today’s majority decision will be viewed with dismay,” writes Guido Calabresi, the former Yale Law dean and a man widely viewed as the most illustrious living member of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He is lodging his dissent in a 7-4 decision of the en banc court concluding that a Canadian software engineer named Maher Arar has no right to sue government officials. What has Calabresi so worked up?

This is “hardly an ordinary immigration case,” as the majority concedes. Arar was apprehended in transit from a Mediterranean vacation to his home in Ottawa at the JFK airport. U.S. agents acting on a tip from the Canadian Mounties—that turned out to be completely incorrect—seized Arar and held him for several days. Understandably, they were not going to let Arar into the country. This was fine with Arar, who just wanted to go home to Canada. But because Arar was born in Syria, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, acting on the advice of two political appointees serving in the Attorney General’s office, signed an order to send him back to Syria. That decision was taken after an immigration review panel had concluded, with what turned out to be perfect accuracy, that Arar would be tortured if sent there. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Thompson resigned and departed shortly after learning the full story behind the Arar case.) Arar was turned over to the Syrians with a list of questions, and he was indeed brutally tortured for a year—to no point, of course, since Arar had no connections with any terrorist organizations. The Canadian Government, recognizing that its wrongdoing led indirectly to Arar’s mistreatment, conducted a comprehensive investigation, fully acknowledged its mistakes in a voluminous report, issued a formal letter of apology, and awarded Arar $11.5 million (Canadian) in compensation and reimbursement of legal costs. And the United States?

The United States tenaciously refused to acknowledge ever having made any mistakes—even after its own sources did so. It stonewalled Congressional probes and issued a travel ban to stop Arar from testifying before Congress. The Bush Justice Department made aggressive representations to the courts in response to Arar’s suit that strained credulity at almost every step. As in other cases, their trump card was simple: when caught with pants down, shout “state secrets!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 11:51 am

The US today is not what it once was

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Glenn Greenwald:

It’s not often that an appellate court decision reflects so vividly what a country has become, but such is the case with yesterday’s ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Arar v. Ashcroft (.pdf).  Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian descent.  A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal’s McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he’s 17 years old.  In 2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then (d) was "rendered" — despite his pleas that he would be tortured — to Syria, to be interrogated and tortured.  He remained in Syria for the next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured.  Everyone acknowledges that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of nothing.  I’ve appended to the end of this post the graphic description from a dissenting judge of what was done to Arar while in American custody and then in Syria.

In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government paid him $9 million in compensation.  That was preceded by a full investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada."  By stark and very revealing contrast, the U.S. Government has never admitted any wrongdoing or even spoken publicly about what it did; to the contrary, it repeatedly insisted that courts were barred from examining the conduct of government officials because what we did to Arar involves "state secrets" and because courts should not interfere in the actions of the Executive where national security is involved.  What does that behavioral disparity between the two nations say about how "democratic," "accountable," and "open" the United States is?

Yesterday, the Second Circuit — by a vote of 7-4 –  agreed with the government and dismissed Arar’s case in its entirety.  It held that even if the government violated Arar’s Constitutional rights as well as statutes banning participation in torture, he still has no right to sue for what was done to him.  Why?  Because "providing a damages remedy against senior officials who implement an extraordinary rendition policy would enmesh the courts ineluctably in an assessment of the validity of the rationale of that policy and its implementation in this particular case, matters that directly affect significant diplomatic and national security concerns" (p. 39).  In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context — even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured — and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them. 

Reflecting the type of people who fill our judiciary, the judges in the majority also invented the most morally depraved bureaucratic requirements for Arar to proceed with his case and then claimed he had failed to meet them.  Arar did not, for instance, have the names of the individuals who detained and abused him at JFK, which the majority said he must have.  As Judge Sack in dissent said of that requirement:  it "means government miscreants may avoid liability altogether through the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury" (p. 27; emphasis added)…

Continue reading. This is not the US I knew.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 11:44 am

Voices from Guantánamo

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All the people in this video were released from Guantánamo without ever being charged with any wrongdoing.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 11:41 am

Our broken Senate

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Norman Ornstein in the March/April 2008 issue of The American Prospect had an important article (currently the site seems to be down, but it’s a great article) on a topic dear to my heart: on how badly the Senate functions, even apart from the obvious problem of in appropriate representation (in which Senators elected by less than 16% of the population not only constitute a filibuster-proof majority but even are enough (68 Senators) to override a Presidential veto. That’s entirely too much power: 16% of the population should not be able to run the US government.

James Fallows also got a comment on this topic:

A friend who has worked in and written about politics for nearly 40 years writes with this question about assessments of Obama’s "disappointing" first year:

"How can the MSM (what’s left of it) not "get" that disappointment in Obama over "lack of change" is precisely the object of the GOP in blocking change?  Does no one remember Newt Gingrich and the GOP strategy from 1992 to 1994, which actually worked?  How can the GOP steal second and third in one play AGAIN and not get nailed this time?  I want to scream.  In any sensible society, instead of disappointment in Obama there would be intense anger at the GOP, and they’d be forced to knock it off."

The talk about "any sensible society" of course leads us into the realm of what is fancily known as counterfactual theorizing….

The problem is mainly the Senate, where now the GOP has embraced the filibuster to the extent that now any action requires 60 votes. This is new—in the previous Congress the filibusters reached a level never seen before (see the graph in Ornstein’s article when it becomes available again).

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 11:39 am

Publisher critique of draft of "Going Rogue"

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Carl Hiaasen has a good column in the Miami Herald:

(Confidential response of Sarah Palin’s book editor to the first draft of her upcoming memoir, "Going Rogue):

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for turning in the manuscript so quickly. I thought only Stephen King could crank out 400 pages in four months! Seriously, there’s some terrific material here, and all of us at Harper Collins are thrilled to be publishing your life story.

Before we move ahead, the fact-checking department has asked me to pass along a few notes and comments that may require some revisions on your part.

1. Eric Clapton spells his last name with a C.

More significantly, his publicists tell us that you were not the inspiration for Layla, and that he doesn’t recall ever having an affair with you.

Is it possible you’ve got him confused with another rock star?

2. The mainland of Russia is indeed visible from parts of western Alaska during favorable weather conditions in the Bering Straits. Considering the ridicule you endured over this issue during the campaign, your desire to set the record straight is understandable.

Still, 78 pages is a big chunk of the book. Perhaps it’s possible to deal with the I-can-see-Russia controversy a bit more succinctly.

3. Our researchers can find no evidence that Tina Fey belongs to the Taliban. Could you send us the sourcing for that reference?

4. John McCain’s campaign staff is vehemently denying the incident you describe in Chapter 13. Perhaps you could provide our legal department with the names of persons who actually witnessed the senator placing the duct tape over your mouth.

5. Even though you quit with 18 months remaining in your term, your achievements as Alaska’s governor will be of great interest to your readers and political supporters.

How about expanding that section of the book to a full chapter? …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:50 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

"Oops"

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The driver was not hurt.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

What really happened during the Israeli attacks?

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Another post on Israel and its Gaza attacks. Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker:

In southwest Israel, at the border of Egypt and the Gaza Strip, there is a small crossing station not far from a kibbutz named Kerem Shalom. A guard tower looms over the flat, scrubby buffer zone. Gaza never extends more than seven miles wide, and the guards in the tower can see the Mediterranean Sea, to the north. The main street in Gaza, Salah El-Deen Road, runs along the entire twenty-five-mile span of the territory, and on a clear night the guards can watch a car make the slow journey from the ruins of the Yasir Arafat International Airport, near the Egyptian border, toward the lights of Gaza City, on the Strip’s northeastern side. Observation balloons hover just outside Gaza, and pilotless drones freely cross its airspace. Israeli patrols tightly enforce a three-mile limit in the Mediterranean and fire on boats that approach the line. Between the sea and the security fence that surrounds the hundred and forty square miles of Gaza live a million and a half Palestinians.

Every opportunity for peace in the Middle East has been led to slaughter, and at this isolated desert crossing, on June 25, 2006, another moment of promise culminated in bloodshed. The year had begun with tumult. That January, Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, won Palestine’s parliamentary elections, defeating the more moderate Fatah Party. Both parties sent armed partisans into the streets, and Gaza verged on civil war. Then, on June 9th, a tentative truce between Hamas and Israel ended after an explosion on a beach near Gaza City, apparently caused by an Israeli artillery shell, killed seven members of a Palestinian family, who were picnicking. (The Israelis deny responsibility.) Hamas fired fifteen rockets into Israel the next day. The Israelis then launched air strikes into Gaza for several days, killing eight militants and fourteen civilians, including five children.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

"Ongoing U.S. efforts to protect and coddle Israel"

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Another column lamenting the inability of the US to treat Israel as an adult nation. Glenn Greenwald quotes the column referenced in the previous post, then adds:

It’s simply impossible to imagine that sort of harsh and blunt critique [what Gideon Levy wrote – LG] being voiced by any establishment political commentator or national politician in the U.S.  In fact, one finds the exact opposite trend of the one Levy advocates.  As Levy suggests, and as Spencer Ackerman insightfully documents and condemns, the Obama administration appears to be rapidly retreating on what was once its promising and commendable demand that Israel cease all settlement growth.  The U.S. is unwilling merely to demand from Israel a cessation of activity which is illegal in the eyes of the entire world and destructive to American interests.

Even worse, the U.S. Congress appears poised — yet again — to enact a meaningless though odious Resolution that has no purpose other than to shield Israel from criticism; place ourselves squarely on Israel’s side no matter what it does; and once again obstruct war crimes investigations.  That Resolution — co-sponsored by two members of Congress from each party, including supreme AIPAC loyalist Howard Berman, the Democratic Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — would advance the repellent through all-too-familiar personal smears against U.N. investigator Richard Goldstone by urging that the U.S. "oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration" of Goldstone’s report — which found both Israel and Hamas likely guilty of "war crimes" in the war in Gaza — on the ground that the Report was biased, flawed, one-sided, pre-ordained and false.

It’s apparently not enough that the U.S. Government block all efforts to investigate its own war crimes while immunizing its own war criminals.  Now the U.S. Congress has decided that they were elected to do the same for Israel.  The reality is that Goldstone’s report found that both Hamas and Israel committed war crimes in the war in Gaza, but the focus of the report was on Israel because the number of civilian deaths it caused was — as usual — many times the magnitude caused by Hamas.  Just to get a flavor for what the U.S. Congress is poised to endorse and protect, here is Goldstone himself, being interviewed by Bill Moyers, describing what he saw as part of his war crimes investigation (h/t Suin):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:36 am

"America, stop sucking up to Israel"

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Things are bad—so bad that even some Israelis think we’re on the wrong track. Take a look at Gideon Levy’s article (with the title shown above) in Haaretz:

Barack Obama has been busy – offering the Jewish People blessings for Rosh Hashanah, and recording a flattering video for the President’s Conference in Jerusalem and another for Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial rally. Only Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah surpasses him in terms of sheer output of recorded remarks.

In all the videos, Obama heaps sticky-sweet praise on Israel, even though he has spent nearly a year fruitlessly lobbying for Israel to be so kind as to do something, anything – even just a temporary freeze on settlement building – to advance the peace process.

The president’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, has also been busy, shuttling between a funeral (for IDF soldier Asaf Ramon, the son of Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon) and a memorial (for Rabin, though it was postponed until next week due to rain), in order to find favor with Israelis. Polls have shown that Obama is increasingly unpopular here, with an approval rating of only 6 to 10 percent.

He decided to address Israelis by video, but a persuasive speech won’t persuade anyone to end the occupation. He simply should have told the Israeli people the truth. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived here last night, will certainly express similar sentiments: "commitment to Israel’s security," "strategic alliance," "the need for peace," and so on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:23 am

Conservative transparency

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Conservatives generally are not interested in transparency: secrecy is their primary mode. But now a new site tells you more about who’s funding conservatives sites and astroturf campaigns and the like. This should be of interest to both liberals and conservatives, both of whom might want to know where the money’s coming from: "Follow the money!"

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 10:08 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics

Beautiful shave

with 5 comments

SOTD091103

After yesterday’s lather struggle, I wanted a great lather with little effort, and the combination of an Omega Syntex brush and Geo. F. Trumper’s Rose Shaving Soap did the trick: abundant good lather whipped up with no effort. The British gold Aristocrat with a previously used Iridium Super blade provided a very smooth shave, and Alt Innsbruck was a nice finish.

I’m thinking (as a commenter suggested) that the boar brushes are probably not a good brush for the total newbie—better to go with synthetic or a good silvertip badger brush. Then, once the newbie has mastered making a good lather, it would be good to explore the boar brushes—and I would recommend the Omega 48 as the place to start.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2009 at 9:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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